Women belonging to minority communities, who have borne the brunt of communalism, narrated their ordeal and urged women from across the country to defeat the designs of divisive forces earlier this week.

Describing the keynote address during the inaugural session of “National Minority Women’s Convention: For Safeguarding Democracy and Secularism” as an extraordinary one, Member of the Planning Commission Dr. Syeda Hameed said the convention conveyed three important messages of social justice, democracy and secularism.

She urged women not to get disheartened and continue to have faith in democracy and secularism.

The first session on “Democracy, Secularism and Growth of Fascist Forces” was chaired by veteran journalist Seema Mustafa.

The second session on “Survivors of Communal Violence: Voices” saw speakers from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

Narrating how her family had to undergo humiliation for a decade because her slain sister Ishrat Jahan was branded as a terrorist, Musarrat Jahan said: “We had not even recovered from the grief of Ishrat being killed, when to rub salt onto our wounds, she was branded as a terrorist. I hope no one goes through this ordeal. As our father had expired, my 19-year-old sister was tutoring students to support our large family. She was brilliant in studies.”

Relieved that after a prolonged legal battle, her sister has finally been exonerated, Ms. Jahan said policemen who cold bloodedly killed her have been locked up but those who hatched the conspiracy to kill her are still at large.

Appealing the gathering not to allow themselves to get communalised by those in the powers that be, Ms. Jahan said: “Do not see our struggle as a fight between the Hindus and the Muslims. Apart from members of my community, Hindus, too, have extended support to me. Therefore, the fight is against those who try to create a wedge between the two communities.”

Later, speaking to The Hindu , she complimented her mother, Shamima Kauser for her extraordinary long struggle and perseverance to continue the court battle to see that her daughter was freed from the blame of being involved in the plot to “assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi”.

Muzaffarnagar’s riot victim Khurshida Khatoon, an Anganwadi worker who abandoned her village along with her family, said: I was doing a small job to maintain my family. Now, I am told to go back to my village. But I am not going to endanger my life and my children by resettling there.”

Pointing out that Muslims played a valiant role in the freedom struggle to get Independence from the colonial masters, Ms. Khatoon said: “I fail to understand why the Muslims are being treated as second class citizens.

Women from Christian community also shared their fear and insecurity.

The fight is against those who try to create a wedge between the two communities: Musarrat Jahan

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